Backgammon Rules & Layout

Learn how to play Backgammon


First, Backgammon Equipment:


  • A Backgammon layout / Board.
  • 30 Backgammon checkers, 15 each of two different colors, generally referred to as Backgammon 'men'. 
  • A pair of regular dice, numbered from 1 to 6. 
  • A Backgammon doubling cube - A six-faced die, marked with the numerals 2,4,8,16,32 & 64. This is used to keep track of the number of units at stake in each Backgammon game, as well as to mark the player who last doubled.

Backgammon Layoutbackgammon doubling cube


Backgammon Board Layout & Backgammon Doubling Cube


The Goal of the Backgammon Game


The game of Backgammon is a 2-participant game, played with 15 Backgammon checkers per participant and a pair of dice. In the start of each play the Backgammon checkers are set up to a very specific beginning position. The two participants throw the dice and move their checkers according to them around the Backgammon layout.


The aim of Backgammon is for each participant to bring all of his 15 men into his home board and then bear them off. The participant who has borne off all his men first wins the Backgammon game!


Rolling the Dice

At the very beginning of the Backgammon game each participant rolls one die. The participant with the higher number moves first. He has to use the figure he got and the figure his opponent got to make his first checker play. If both participants throw one and the same die, both roll another die to decide the opening roll. At each player's turn he rolls two dice. For each figure of the dice he can move a Backgammon checker. If both figures are identical the roll is called a Backgammon doublet. The participant can then move up to four Backgammon checkers.


Rules of Moving the Backgammon Checkers

The participants move their checkers in different directions according to the following Backgammon rules:


The roll of the dice indicate how many pips each Backgammon checker can be moved. A Backgammon checker can only be moved forward. A Backgammon checker can be moved to a given point only if: 


  • There is no other Backgammon checker on this point
  • The point is already occupied by the participants own checkers
  • There is only one Backgammon checker of the opponent on this point (Backgammon striking).


Backgammon Layout


The figures of the dice constitute different moves. For example suppose the participant rolls 4 and 2. Then he can transfer one Backgammon checker by 4 pips and another one by 2 pips. However, he may also move the same Backgammon checker by 6 pips if he can legally move the checker first by 2 pip followed by 4 pips or first by 4 pips followed by 2 pips.


A participant must use both figures of a roll or all four figures of a doublet if this is possible. If only one figure can be performed the participant has to play it. If either of the figures can be performed individually but not both figures together then he has to perform the higher number.


What's Backgammon Hitting?

A Backgammon checker can be hit by the opponent if you move one of your own checkers to a place, where a single opponent Backgammon checker is found. A hit checker is placed on the so called 'Backgammon bar' and has to completely run again around the Backgammon layout.


Backgammon Rules for Entering from the Bar

Any moment the participant has Backgammon checkers on the bar he has to move these checkers first. A participant may not make any other move before he has brought his checkers on the bar back into play. A Backgammon checker can be recalled into play by entering into an open point of the opponent's home board. Re-entry can be made on the figures corresponding to the rolled dice. If a participant can not re-enter from the bar because the corresponding points are possessed by the opponent he must pass his turn.


Taking Backgammon Checkers off

Once a participant has brought all his 15 Backgammon men into his home board (the last quadrant of the Backgammon layout where his checkers can go) he can begin bearing off his checkers.


A Backgammon checker can be borne off in the following ways:

  • The participant may bear off a man from the point corresponding to the rolled die.
  • If there is no Backgammon checker on the related point he must make a legal move from a higher numbered point.
  • If there are no more Backgammon checkers on higher numbered points he may bear off a checker from the highest numbered point where there is still a checker.
  • A participant is never obliged to take a man off if he has a legal alternative.
  • Once a Backgammon checker has been borne off it can't be brought back into the play again.


When does the Backgammon Game Ends?

The Backgammon play completes when a participant has pulled out all 15 Backgammon checkers from the board. This participant is the Backgammon winner, however there are 3 different kinds of a Backgammon win:


A Single Win:

If the loser managed to bear off at least one man, then the winner wins a single win.


Gammon Win:

If the loser did not bear off any man, the winner wins a "Gammon" counting as a dual win.


Backgammon Win:

If in addition to the Gammon the loser still has at least one man in the opponent's home board or on the bar, then the winner wins a "Backgammon" counting as a triple win.


Backgammon Cube actions

Backgammon is played for a given stake per point. The participants can either play several Backgammon games and just sum up the end result (Backgammon cash games) or they can play to an agreed number of points (Backgammon match play). In either case, doubling is an important factor of the play.


At the start of each play the stake is one point and the doubling cube is available to both participants. During the play, either participant may suggest to his opponent that the play resumes for twice the stake. The opponent then has the selection of either refusing the double (giving up this play) and giving the current stake to the participant, or eventually taking the double and continuing playing for twice the stake. A participant who takes a double becomes the possessor of the doubling cube. Only the possessor of the cube may offer subsequent doubles.


Backgammon money games

For each play the loser rewards the winner the stake multiplied by the value of the cube. The price is furthermore multiplied by two in case of a gammon loss or multiplied by three in case of a backgammon loss.


Backgammon money games are generally played with the "Jacoby rule":

The "Jacoby rule" states that a gammon or a backgammon can only be scored if the cube has been turned by a participant and obtained by his opponent.


There are several extra rules which are often used in cash play, but only if both participants come to an agreement to do so:


Automatic Doubles:

These happen when both participants throw exactly the same number at the start of the Backgammon play. The value of the doubling cube is doubled but the cube still stays in the midpoint. If this occurs another time in exactly the same game it has no effect anymore. Automatic doubles count only once per Backgammon play.


Some participants like to have some extra excitement. With this regulation they randomly play some plays for twice the initial stake.



If a participant doubles and his opponent believe he is the favorite in the play he may beaver the cube. This signifies that he agrees the double but takes the cube on the twice the offered value. Effectively he doubles simultaneously as he takes while maintaining the cube ownership.


Backgammon Match Play
Match play is the style of competition used at competitions. The winner of the match is the first player to accumulate an agreed number of points. Each play is worth the value of the cube multiplied by the type of win.


Note that the final score is irrelevant, the only goal is accumulate at least the agreed number of points and so win the Backgammon match. The Jacoby rule, automatic doubles and beavers are not used in match play.


However, matches are generally played with the "Crawford rule":

This regulation states that if the first player arrives match-point (he needs only one more point to win the match) it is not allowed to use the doubling cube during the next Backgammon game.


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